Thanksgiving is a truly loaded holiday, for so many reasons. Even if you love Thanksgiving, the traveling, or cooking, or socializing, or abstaining from those activities, can all cultivate a unique type of stress. Food and diet culture add a level of complexity to that stress.
Many of us use the occasion to intentionally overeat, to “cheat” or “indulge” on all the foods we don’t let ourselves have for the rest of the year. It’s so common for families to talk about the diets they’re on, to be critical of each other’s eating or bodies around the table, to make comments about the weight they’ve gained or are currently trying to lose, or the weight they’ve just lost and how they lost it, or to put pressure on others to do the same.
If you’re working on leaving dieting behind this year, here’s a Thanksgiving Survival Guide for body liberation.
1. Speak Up For Your Needs
It’s perfectly within your rights to request that the people around your table refrain from body or diet talk. You can say something like “I’m working on healing my history of disordered eating, and it would be helpful for me not to discuss diets or weight.” If “disordered eating” feels like too loaded a term to use in mixed company, you can say “I’m working on healing my relationship with food,” or “I’m working on extracting myself from diet culture.” You can explain as much as you’re up for, or you can leave it at that.
This doesn’t apply only to Thanksgiving and big holidays/gatherings, you can draw these boundaries at any time. Around the water cooler at work, in the locker room, in your friendships. You never know which friend might really need to hear that you’re not going to encourage their disparaging of their own body.
2. When It Comes To Eating, You Do You!
Whether you’re going to treat eating like an Olympic sport, or like any other day, embrace it.
If you recently jumped off the diet train, or you’re considering it for the first time, Thanksgiving might be a perfect occasion to practice eating without guilt or shame. If you catch yourself demonizing a certain type of food, remind yourself that there’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. If you find yourself preoccupied with how food might change your body, remind yourself that you don’t need to be any certain size to be healthy, worthy, beautiful, or loved. Remind yourself that in the pursuit of health, it’s what you do over time that matters, not a single day or meal. Remind yourself that eating without guilt or shame is healthy eating. If you find yourself getting stressed, remember to breathe.
For those of us who’ve already spent some time purposefully NOT restricting foods, the desire to overeat may not be so strong. Personally, I plan to treat the meal like any other. Since I stopped dieting over a year ago, my body is used to being fed reliably. Foods like pumpkin pie no longer hold a forbidden fruit type of allure, because my body knows she can have them whenever she wants. Special occasions like Thanksgiving are no longer about a “get it now because tomorrow the drought begins again” attitude.
3. Focus On The Sensations
I’m going to focus on getting the most possible enjoyment out of what I eat. I’m going to bring my awareness to the smells emanating from the kitchen, the flavors in my mouth. I’m going to really feel the warm fuzziness my body produces when my son laughs.
May you enjoy peace, acceptance, and some pleasurable sensations in your body this holiday.